The 4th Best Player Performance of 2017-18

October 2nd, 2018 | by Clint Johnson

The entire Timberwolves team couldn’t resist Rudy Gobert on either side of the floor in the single best game played by a Utah Jazz player in the 2017-18 regular season. (AP Photo/Kim Raff)

Leading up to start of the 2018-19 Utah Jazz season, Salt City Hoops is counting down the ten best player performances from last season. See games that just missed the top ten here and also check out #10, #9, #8#7#6, and #5  from previous weeks!

#4: Rudy Gobert, March 2, 2018

Jazz 116, Timberwolves 108 in Salt Lake City

26 points, 16 rebounds, 1 assist, 4 blocks, 1 steal, 78% field goals, 12 of 14 free throws. [26.5 PIE, 30 GmSc]1

Context

The bottom of the Western playoff race was a glorious scrum. With less than a quarter of the regular season left, an incredible seven teams stood between 26 and 28 losses: the Spurs, Blazers, and Pelicans at 26, the Thunder at 27, and the Timberwolves, Nuggets, and Clippers at 28. Despite a torrid run of 12 wins in 14 games, the Jazz remained in tenth place with 30 losses. This game against Minnesota was the final contest in a six-game home stand before Utah faced a stretch of four out of five games on the road at a time when every loss could well prove decisive in the heavily contested race for the postseason. 

Why It Makes the List

Of all the Jazz players to make the top 10, only Rudy Gobert appears only once.

A large reason for that is injury, as Gobert played only 56 games last season2. There are other reasons. His defensive ethos and rigid adherence to what he does well lacks the glamour of Donovan Mitchell’s offensive artistry, or the shock value of watching Ricky Rubio — yes, that Rubio! — carry an offense, or Derrick Favors, once left for dead, prove a decisive advantage in vital playoff games. Other players are easy to acclaim because their greatness surprises. 

Gobert’s unique impact has become expected. For Gobert, awesome is the norm. And he displayed this in the greatest regular season game produced by a Jazz player last season.

Why does it deserve that distinction?

Gobert scored 26 points on nine shots. Think about that. Only one other player in the NBA, Ersan Ilyasova, scored that many points on so few shot attempts in a game last year, and that was on a night when he hit five of five from long range!

Then Gobert added 16 rebounds while making 12 of 14 free throws — that’s better than 85-percent accruacy. Only Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, and Kevin Love pulled off that combination in a game last season.

Gobert also tossed in four blocks. 

No player in the league can control a game as completely as Gobert while being so undemanding on his teammates and coaches. He executes Quin Snyder’s systems so well he can’t be separated from them. Offensively, he led the league by a huge margin in screen assists per game while serving as arguably the most dangerous roll man to the hoop in the NBA. Defensively, he is the system, warping what offenses can do near the interior in ways the sport has rarely, if ever, seen.

In this game with huge playoff implications, that was all on this display, resulting in a remarkable combination: an offensive rating of 1733 and game best defensive rating of 102. 

In a game the Jazz won by only eight, they were 71 points per 100 possessions better than the Wolves with Gobert playing.

Impact, thy name is Rudy.   

Take Note

So how many players in league history have scored 26 on nine or fewer shots, grabbed 16 rebounds, and made 12 or more free throws on 85 percent accuracy? That’d be one: Gobert.  

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. He teaches writing at Salt Lake Community College. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
Clint Johnson

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